Australian Radio Network soundwaves reach new heights in the cloud

From Jonesy & Amanda in Sydney to Robin, Terry & Bob in Brisbane, the Australian Radio Network (ARN) has listeners tuning in to its programs from across the nation – 4 million each week.  ARN hosts some of the most popular programs in the country on its various brands including the KIIS, Pure Gold and the Edge networks, and the world’s fastest growing streaming platform, iHeartRadio.

While its listeners loved ARN’s programs, the organisation knew it could modernise the technology it used to deliver them. Its stations still relied on costly, stationary, on-premises equipment, and they weren’t enhancing employee satisfaction or meeting their data storage requirements.

ARN believes that its employees should be just as satisfied as its listeners. So when it acquired Perth radio station 96FM in early 2015, Bill Cacalis, ARN’s Head of Technology, knew he had the perfect opportunity to make an organisation-wide change.

A better outlook on mail

The first challenge was that the 60 new employees in Perth used Google as their email server, while ARN was already successfully piloting the Office 365 email system. “We knew our users were happy and loved the Outlook-style approach to email,” says Bill.

It wasn’t a hard decision to switch the Perth team to Outlook. “There is a lot of assurance that comes with dealing with a company like Microsoft,” says Bill. “We knew we needed more reliable email and we needed more flexible scaling. So we onboarded an entire business unit without even blinking.”

Bill and his team implemented Outlook and quickly received outstanding feedback. “The user uptake was just amazing. We were getting compliments galore and, even better, we did it all in one weekend.”

Today, ARN runs more than 700 mailboxes using Outlook.

Up in the cloud

Connecting a new station into the wider ARN business would take more than just linking email servers. Bill and his team also had to integrate a wealth of data critical to the radio industry, from sales and forecasting information to scheduling and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, without installing on-premises infrastructure.

“We didn’t want to add any servers in Perth,” says Bill. “That was the key. I set the task to my guys and they said ‘Well, if you don’t want any servers onsite you need this and you need this and we can do it all in Azure’. So that’s how it all started.”

ARN soon adopted the cloud computing platform Azure, which let it integrate the new Perth station and its team seamlessly into the wider business – and with only an internet connection in common.

The IT team built schedule, sales, billing and other radio-related applications in Azure. They also employed RemoteApps, an Azure program, so that all employees can access these apps from wherever they are. ARN also integrated its active directory and bespoke CRM solution into Azure.

Importantly, ARN’s struggle with storage restrictions ended with Azure Blob, a service that stores any type of content – from videos and images to audio files and documents – in the cloud. Better still, with Azure’s ExpressRoute program, employees can share content securely and quickly.

A better connection

ARN wanted to establish a quick and simple way to support the new Perth team and help its people feel connected to the wider business – which is based in Sydney – without having to be physically present. Skype for Business was the flexible solution it needed.

Employees can quickly chat and solve problems over Skype Instant Messenger, reducing email conversations. They also don’t have to worry about organising a room or being in the office to attend a meeting, since they can attend remotely on their phone or from the comfort of their own desk.

“Skype for Business has enabled staff members to have more effective communications on the run, and to share documents quickly without having to worry about VPNs, while still keeping security levels high,” says Bill.

Getting mobile

ARN has improved employee mobility even further by adopting Surface Pro 3 laptops across the business. “We wanted something large enough to accommodate work for many hours but also small enough to carry everywhere,” says Bill.

After employees in the first pilot group immediately went out to buy a Surface Pro for their own personal use, Bill commenced rolling out the tablets to the whole business.

Employees also love using the laptop’s stylus to create their own notes and diagrams in OneNote. In fact, since deploying the laptops and Office 365, the need for pens and paper has dramatically reduced as employee satisfaction has risen.

“We haven’t looked back since,” says Bill. “We’re getting constant positive feedback from our users. Even when our staff members go out into the market they’re getting great reactions from people that they’re presenting to.”

Now employees have the tools they need to do their jobs well.

ARN’s journey with Office 365 is a remarkable example of what can happen when you are committed to innovation. “It’s been an absolutely amazing ride,” says Bill.

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